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Wrong Side of the River: London's disreputable - page 3 / 25





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Southwark was subsequently created the twenty-sixth ward of Bridge Ward Without, it retained its manorial status, and was denied representation in the Court of Common Council or the power of electing its own aldermen; likewise, the Lord Mayor, the recorder and all aldermen who held the City mayoralty became justices of the peace in Southwark, with all powers exercised by other justices in Surrey.11 As a result, disputes frequently arose between the JPs for Surrey and the City government about responsibility for holding musters and their respective spheres of duty as justices, and for a century subsequent to the Charter of 1550 there are many references to the fact that the jurisdiction of the City extended over only a part of the borough, and that the rest was subject to the county.12 Furthermore, in view of the lack of elective authority, it is not surprising that this charter was regarded by the citizens of Southwark as an oppressive extension of the City boundaries. Their discontent became politically significant on more than one occasion. In February 1554 they gave Sir Thomas Wyatt a far from unfriendly welcome as he led his rebel force towards London, as part of the widespread movement against Queen Mary's intended marriage to Philip of Spain. It was not until the guns of the Tower were trained upon the homes and churches of the borough that the inhabitants asked Wyatt and his men to leave. The South Londoners showed their hostility to the government again in 1647, when they opened the gates of the Bridge to Fairfax's army.13 Certainly, Southwark's reputation as a radical suburb was not enhanced by the memory of the part it could and did

play with its vital command of the Bridgehead in times of civil disorder.

The gravest jurisdictional problem of Southwark, however, arose from those areas specifically excluded from the Charter, and particularly the anomalous status of Paris Garden and the Clink. These types of liberties -- "bastard sanctuaries" they

were called -- existed in many of the areas surrounding the metropolis. The areas they encompassed had in pre-Tudor times been a combination of lay and ecclesiastical franchises which by charter or prescription claimed independence from royal justice, and as such afforded shelter to fugitive criminals and debtors. The break with Rome marked the end of ecclesiastical jurisdictions, but this did not extinguish the immunities of all the old religious houses; and when the purchasers of these properties claimed for themselves the immunities enjoyed by the former owners, the crown, in whom the franchises in question were now vested, was generally prepared to allow it, so long as the right to collect taxes and raise troops there was retained by the City.14 Thus, Strype's list of the "privileged places" of London describes a circle around the Walls which coincides very nearly with the area of the suburbs: St. Martin's le Grand, Blackfriars, Clerkenwell, Turnmill Street, St. John's Street, High Holborn, the Duchy of Lancaster without Temple Bar, St. Katherine's, Holywell, Holywell Street, Norton Folgate, Shoreditch, Hoxton, Whitechapel, Wapping and Southwark. Thus, Paris Garden, whose privileges were an outcome of its possession by the Templars and of their enjoyment of immunity since c. 1200 under papal bull, was in some important respects exempt from the jurisdiction of the Lord Mayor and from the legislation of the Common Council, and its inmates continued, where they dared, to defy the local magistracy.15

Privileged status was only one of the reasons why immigrants flocked to the suburbs of London, and why these areas, in particular, participated in the rapid growth experienced by the whole of the City between 1550 and 1700. Southwark, however, was by the later seventeenth century even more densely populated than the sprawling suburbs of East London. Population estimates are necessarily tentative, relying as they do on incomplete records for the four parishes of St. Thomas', St. George's, St. Olave's and St. Saviour's (from which the fifth parish, Christchurch, was later created). If we base our estimates on

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